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Thu 16 Oct 2008 12:02 PM

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Vodafone on new timetable for Qatar IPO bid

Mobile phone giant hit with delay to proposed October sale of 40% shares.

The Qatari unit of Vodafone Group has submitted a revised timetable for its October initial public offering after the capital markets regulator asked it to delay the launch due to market conditions.

Vodafone planned to sell a 40 percent stake in the operator in an IPO this month, but did not get the required approvals from the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA), a Vodafone spokesman said on Thursday.

"The QFMA asked us to submit a revised timetable due to market conditions ... and we are waiting," Matthew Harrison-Harvey, director of regulatory and external relations at Vodafone Qatar said.

Harrison-Harvey declined to give the proposed timeframe due to confidentiality agreements.

"We haven't seen it (regulator asking for delay) happen before," says Samer al-Jaouni, general manager at Middle East Financial Brokerage Co in Dubai.

"I think it's positive not to have a new IPO because there is no real interest and market liquidity is not high."

Investors in the Gulf Arab region are facing a liquidity shortage as the world faces its worst credit crisis since the Great Depression.

Stock markets in the world's biggest oil-exporting region have tracked global bourses downward, with Doha's main index falling more than 23 percent since the start of September.

Doha's main index was down 4.35 percent at 0737 GMT following a slump in global markets.

Vodafone, which in December won a bid for Qatar's second mobile telephone licence for $2.12 billion, intends to sell a 15 percent stake to local institutional investors, which will leave it and its local partner, Qatar Foundation, with a 45 percent stake. In June, the group also won the second-fixed line licence.

Mobile operations are to begin in the first quarter of 2009 and will compete with state-controlled Qatar Telecommunications Co (Qtel), which until now had run the country's only mobile and fixed-line networks.

Asked if the IPO delay would have any impact on Vodafone's launch plans, Harrison-Harvey said: "absolutely not."

Qatar is the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas and home to about 1.4 million people.

Officials at the QFMA or the telecom's regulator were not immediately available for comment. (Reuters)

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